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SARATOGA COUNTY — There is something so quintessentially American about “bootstrapping,” and no one does it better than entrepreneurs and small business owners. Building a business from nothing more than an idea, sweat, and a prayer is a courageous undertaking. It’s something to think about the next time you walk into a small shop filled with hand-made soaps. Or dine at a local restaurant built from a grandparent’s secret recipe. Or even when you pay your neighbor’s kid to mow your lawn.
When a small business owner falls down, he has to pick himself up by his own bootstraps. There are no shareholders to lean on. No high-retainer attorneys or accountants to offer advice. An entrepreneur knows that each mistake could be her last. She knows if she doesn’t work today, she doesn’t get paid.
“When you have your own business, everything is personal. It’s your livelihood. For other people, it’s your job, but for us, it’s our lives, it’s what we do. Even when we aren’t here, we’re thinking about it, thinking about how to make it better,” said Maddy Zanetti, managing partner at Impressions of Saratoga and vice president of the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association. “The scariest part is believing in yourself, believing that you can run a store and be successful. You don’t have an employer to worry about that; it’s just you. Of course we couldn’t do it without all our employees, but as a business owner, you are putting yourself out there.”
The risks are so high; you wonder why anyone would even do it. Much as you might wonder why a farm boy in Utah would put his last dime into inventing an electronic camera tube (which led to the first television), or why hundreds of thousands of pioneers would pile whole families into covered wagons to build a new life – and new cities – across wild lands with nothing but the raw skills of brain and brawn.
Debi Gustafson, co-owner of Ye Olde Wishin’ Shoppe at 19 Low Street, Suite 2 (side entrance) in Ballston Spa, said, “The whole thing is a risk really. We had all this inventory and opened the store, and put our own savings in it. A big box store probably has investors and such. For us, it’s a family business, and we’re here every day working all the time. You put your whole life into it.”
Small business owners know they must master being flexible in uncertain times and changing circumstances, or close up shop. Gustafson said her family’s business began with her grandparents, and at one point they lost the shop they were renting because the building was being renovated. For a while, it was running out of her grandfather’s house and her grandma was selling items on eBay. Now they have a brick-and-mortar shop that Gustafson says has been doing better each year since it opened three years ago.
“We’ve evolved into vintage clothing and jewelry and vinyl records,” said Gustafson. “We also now have a lot of handmade local jewelry and other items, including a local photographer with vintage photos.”
The Small Business Saturday initiative that began in 2010 recognizes the tremendous economic contribution entrepreneurs and small business owners have made to the strength of this country. The annual event has proven that shopping small keeps local dollars in the community, positively affecting job creation and economic growth in locales across the U.S.
“I think this is our seventh Small Business Saturday,” said Zanetti. “We’ve done it every year they’ve had it, and it’s grown each year. We don’t offer discounts, but we have a raffle and food samplings and hot cider as a thank you to our customers. We have longer hours and give them the best service possible. We feel offering a discount on that day takes away from what Small Business Saturday is all about, supporting small businesses and giving back to the community.”
Small businesses offer more personalized service, more variety and unique items, and are very likely supporters of local nonprofits and other community initiatives. The majority of dollars spent in a small business stay in that locale. Shopping small on Small Business Saturday, and every day, is one way to say “thank you” to the innovators, artisans, service providers, and other pioneers who keep America working.
“I think it gets better every year,” said Gustafson. “We’re doing three little sales: the first one is buy one - get one half off on all our used vinyl; the second is 10 percent off new vinyl; and then 20 percent off storewide. Each year, more people are trying to shop local and support small businesses and do something different than just going to the mall. It’s cool to see more interest in Small Business Saturday.”
To learn more about Impressions of Saratoga, visit www.impressionssaratoga.com. To learn more about Ye Olde Wishin’ Shoppe, visit www.yeoldewishinshoppe.com. To learn more about Small Business Saturday, visit www.shopsmall.com.